Kevin Hourican, senior vice president and regional director of stores for Macy’s, said he was convinced consumers would flock to the department store for an earlier opening after witnessing the crowds at Tysons Corner last year.
Macy’s had tested the late-night opening at a handful of stores last year. Based on the success at those locations and for other retailers, the company was ready to kick off a midnight opening across the country.
“It was a pretty easy decision,” Hourican said. “We’re getting a customer that wasn’t coming in at 4 a.m. but one that never went to bed.”
Tighter budgets may have lured many consumers to late-night sales for deep discounts on items they otherwise could not afford.
“Sometimes we have to make sacrifices with the economy being what it is,” Joel Castillo, 19, said while standing in line at Best Buy in Germantown for a $200 42-inch flat-screen television. “Once I’m at home watching my TV, it will be worth it.”
Seasoned Black Friday shoppers in some cases praised retailers for forgoing the standard openings in the wee hours of Friday morning.
“It was actually smoother than in years past,” Jill Winner, 35, said as she and her niece Lindsey Delouney, 15, rolled out of the Wal-Mart in Germantown just after 10:30 p.m. Thursday. “There was actually more security. People were more friendly I think because they weren’t waiting up all night.”
Not every night-owl opening ran as smoothly. A women at a Wal-Mart in California’s San Fernando Valley allegedly spewed pepper spray on a crowd of shoppers to get an Xbox on Thursday night, according to police. About 20 people suffered minor injuries.
To cut down on such incidents, many retailers handed shoppers tickets to reserve limited-quantity merchandise. But there was still trouble.
“People who had been in line let their family just come out of nowhere and jump in, and the guards did nothing,” said Mike Masho, who had been camped out at the Best Buy in Woodbridge since 9 a.m. Thursday for the 42-inch flat-screen TV. By the time a store worker got to the 25-year-old, one of the first 50 people in line, tickets for his coveted television were gone.
“After all the time I spent out here,” he said. “It’s just wrong.”
But all hope was not lost. Masho’s cousin, hedging his bets, was camped out at a nearby Target and was the second person in line.
Shoppers looking to avoid hassles and big crowds found success Friday morning in downtown Bethesda, where parking spaces were plentiful, lines were short or nonexistent, and the vibe was so calm that a woman sat reading a book on a bench outside the Lululemon yoga store.
Inside the Apple Store, shoppers were able to quickly buy MacBook Airs, iPads and iPods at a special table reserved for fast purchases. Assessing the chaos, or lack thereof, one woman was heard strolling into the store and saying, “Oh, this isn’t bad at all.”